Phil and Sue Frank Discover the Ameer

By Phil Frank, Sausalito Historical Society

In the mid-70s, Phil Frank wrote this charming memoir of his and Susan’s introduction to the Sausalito waterfront:

When people ask us "Why did you come to the houseboats in the first place?" I respond that...Cary Grant and Sophia Loren sent us here.

PHOTO COURTESY OF FLOATING HOMES ASSOCIATION  The Ameer as it looked during the 2014 Floating Homes Tour

PHOTO COURTESY OF FLOATING HOMES ASSOCIATION

The Ameer as it looked during the 2014 Floating Homes Tour

My lady friend Susan, my son Philip and I were sitting in my rented room in a private home in North Berkeley, considering our plans for the evening.  The ten by ten space easily held the sum contents of my earthly possessions after a difficult divorce and the resulting sale of house and automobiles, furniture and appliances.  One of the items which fell into my possession because of its low marketability was a color tv which provided a choice of two colors — brown or purple, depending upon channels. Burned out from a day of house hunting in an effort to reestablish some roots of our own, we were-all pretty exhausted and the idea of catching a movie on TV required the least amount of effort. Enter Cary Grant and Sophia Loren.

The movie turned out to be a B grade classic called Houseboat, in which, through a variety of bizarre circumstances, the wealthy widowed father of three ends up with the Italian Countess turned children’s' governess on an ancient Hudson River houseboat.  The boat, though rickety and dingy when they find it, becomes miraculously restored to Victorian splendor in a matter of two commercials.

The next morning found us wandering the Gates area checking billboards, asking about rentals and even looking at an apartment on Kappas' gray barge.  Somehow it didn't look like the ancient riverboat in the movie.  We were wandering about aimlessly, the image of the dream boat fast fading from our consciousness when we were approached by a lady who asked if we were lost. We explained our plight and the story of our search and were directed by her to look at her neighboring boat which had been vacant for three months.  We threaded our way down the walkway and onto the deck of the old ark and looked into through the window into the vacant boat. We stood there for a full minute staring into the boat in disbelief, until Sue commented that it looked like the set for the movie.  It was sinking but that seemed insignificant.

We rented the Ameer for seven months before buying it. We salvaged a derelict barge, paid its back berthage, refloated the old ark and in the ensuing four years restored it to its former beauty.  It certainly took more than two commercials.

In 1983, Phil and Sue sold the historic ark to renowned architect Sim Van der Ryn and his wife, designer Ruth Friend.  Ruth and Sim undertook a major remodel, raising the boat enough to add a lower floor with substantial headroom. Snugly berthed at the end of South Forty Pier, the Ameer is the last ark still floating on Richardson’s Bay.